Pundits take sides in DRM battle as responses to Jobs fly

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
A call by Apple frontman Steve Jobs for a ceasefire in the DRM wars has only escalated the fight, with each side taking its own share of potshots -- including a shot in the dark by the RIAA.



Tuesday's provocative open letter by Jobs has touched a nerve in the already sensitive area of music rights, producing reactions ranging from full support to outright dismissal.



Coming as a shock to little, the primary target of the letter -- the Norwegian Consumer Council whose antitrust threats pose a serious risk to iTunes sales -- wasn't easily fooled by the grassroots image.



"It's [the] iTunes Music Store that's providing a service to the consumers and therefore has the responsibility to offer up a consumer friendly product," said the Council's Torgeir Waterhouse. He welcomed the statement as a serious discussion of the problem but characterized the move as an attempt to shift the focus away from the lack of choice in music players for iTunes customers.



Some even argued that Jobs had not gone far enough, pressing him to back up his claims with immediate action. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was one of the first out of the gates with its opinion and urged the Apple CEO to put "his music store where his mouth is" by promptly stripping the Fairplay protection from independent music, much of which is sold on Bleep.com, eMusic, and other online stores without any DRM whatsoever.



Famed DVD protection cracker Jon Lech Johansen went so far as to research the issue and outline the practical reality for such an idea. "It should not take Apple?s iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay when the content owner does not mandate DRM," he said. "Actions speak louder than words, Steve."



Predictably, the gatekeepers of DRM were quick to cling to their familiar bylines. Warner Music head Edgar Bronfman stopped just short of questioning Jobs' sanity: during a quarterly earnings conference call, he said the Apple frontman's suggestion of dropping copy protection was "completely without logic or merit." The Warner chief contended that the ideas of DRM and interoperability weren't mutually incompatible and that his label had every right to protect its files from illegal copies.



Other responses from proponents of the restrictions bordered on the comedic. In what was an example of either strange criticism or a baffling display of misinterpretation, the oft-maligned RIAA responded by welcoming the (non-existent) offer to license Fairplay to other companies, completely ignoring the discussion of eliminating DRM altogether.



SanDisk founder Eli Harari also produced unintended chuckles by penning his own open letter, which contradicted itself by at once claiming that music listeners deserved "the freedom to enjoy content on any device" while urging Jobs to be "less confrontational" and support the industry's lockdown on music.



Neither Jobs nor Apple spokespeople have offered a response to the criticism leveled against them.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 70
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Apple Insider


    Famed DVD protection cracker Jon Lech Johansen went so far as to research the issue and outline the practical reality for such an idea. "It should not take Apple?s iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay when the content owner does not mandate DRM," he said. "Actions speak louder than words, Steve."



    Johansen makes a good point. If Jobs really wants us to think he's serious and that it's really the RIAA forcing Apple use DRM then they need to remove it from labels who don't mind being free from DRM.



    We will surely be getting an iTunes and Quicktime update for the iPhone and maybe for AppleTV, perhaps we'll see Selective DRM implemented as well... but I doubt it.
  • Reply 2 of 70
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    I doubt it as well. The only reason that Apple's been able to take a hard line with the big labels is that every label gets *EXACTLY* the same deal. Open up the gates by giving labels the choice of DRM, and you also open up the gates to variable pricing, variable DRM restrictions, and all the other crap that the RIAA labels have been shoving down other channels.



    I say keep it the same until the back breaks on DRM. EMI is apparently open to negotiation on this, perhaps it'll start the ball rolling, along with Apply pushing from their end.
  • Reply 3 of 70
    elrothelroth Posts: 1,201member
    Why would anyone listen to Edgar Bronfman about selling music, while he's running Warners Music right into the ground? The only thing "completely without logic or merit" is the fact that Bronfman is still head of Warners.



    I do think Apple should strip the DRM off the songs from the independent labels. I didn't realize the independents didn't demand the DRM in the first place, and I'm disappointed that Apple added it to their songs. Of course, at the time, iTMS was experimental, so Apple wouldn't have taken the chance of it falling apart, but those days are long gone.



    I can see the Big 4 possibly using the DRM issue down the road to try to get a higher price from Apple, or other concessions.
  • Reply 4 of 70
    ipeonipeon Posts: 1,122member
    I agree as well with striping the DRM from those whose labels do not require it. Reason one is this shows that Apple is only using DRM because Apple is being forced to use it as part of the contract between the labels. This points the finger at the labels. Reason two is that by removing the DRM from those that do not require it, this will put pressure upon those that do use DRM.



    What's unknown is what response will Apple get by doing this from the labels that require DRM. Will these labels pull the plug on music being sold through iTunes? That is a question that Apple, I'm sure, knows the answer to.



    My take on it is that Steve agreed to the DRM to get the show on the road, that was the only way the record companies would play ball, however, once the game reaches a level of no turning back, Steve will "re-negotiate."



    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
  • Reply 5 of 70
    Here's an idea burn a .05 cent cd of your music and re-import it. Done! NO DRM!
  • Reply 6 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Johansen makes a good point. If Jobs really wants us to think he's serious and that it's really the RIAA forcing Apple use DRM then they need to remove it from labels who don't mind being free from DRM.



    I don't quite agree to it, but the logic is that it is confusing if you have different rights for different songs that you buy from the store. How is a user supposed to know what files have what restrictions on them as they go through their library.



    It is consistent with the way Apple works...
  • Reply 7 of 70
    ipeonipeon Posts: 1,122member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hubfam View Post


    Here's an idea burn a .05 cent cd of your music and re-import it. Done! NO DRM!



    And spend the next hour re-inputing the tags back into each and every song, unless of course you don't mind seeing only track numbers in your library and not being able to find the song you are looking for.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post


    How is a user supposed to know what files have what restrictions on them as they go through their library.



    It says so right in iTunes.
  • Reply 8 of 70
    almalm Posts: 111member
    You don't have to re-type tags, iTunes will find those on the internet in second.
  • Reply 9 of 70
    ipeonipeon Posts: 1,122member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ALM View Post


    You don't have to re-type tags, iTunes will find those on the internet in second.



    iTunes does not get CD tracks names from a CD that you burnt yourself. When you burn a Music CD in iTunes, it changes the format to AIFF That strips the Tags.
  • Reply 10 of 70
    Not to mention that the quality will suffer as it's being encoded a second time.
  • Reply 11 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iPeon View Post


    iTunes does not get CD tracks names from a CD that you burnt yourself. When you burn a Music CD in iTunes, it changes the format to AIFF That strips the Tags.



    Hmmm...and yet every time I do it, it works every time.



    That is because when you burn the disk it saves the information about that disk in your iTunes Library, so the track names will work fine in your own library, you would need to place them in manually only if you gave the disk to someone else and they ripped it on their own computer. But of course that is illegal.
  • Reply 12 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Strawberry View Post


    Not to mention that the quality will suffer as it's being encoded a second time.



    Which you wouldn't notice on a non iPod MP3 player
  • Reply 13 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iPeon View Post


    And spend the next hour re-inputing the tags back into each and every song, unless of course you don't mind seeing only track numbers in your library and not being able to find the song you are looking for.







    It says so right in iTunes.



    Nothing i missed a line in the help files of iTunes.

    i Thougt iTunes could convert iTS files to an mp3-cd. DOH!
  • Reply 14 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Famed DVD protection cracker Jon Lech Johansen went so far as to research the issue and outline the practical reality for such an idea. "It should not take Apple?s iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay when the content owner does not mandate DRM," he said. "Actions speak louder than words, Steve."



    What kind of "research" did he do in 2 days to come to the conclusion that Apple could remove the DRM in 2-3 days? Not just remove it, but selectively remove it (or not implement it, not sure how it gets put in place originally). And once it's removed, they'll still be continued complaints because the song is in AAC format which most portable players besides the iPod can't play. So now those same songs would need to be reencoded as mp3 to be truly "open."



    Also, just because some of the labels didn't require DRM for their content to be on iTunes, Apple can't just up and decide to remove the DRM. They would still have to obtain permission to now remove the DRM as its inclusion has been standard since Day 1.



    Before I continue, I'd like to say I think DRM is a waste of effort. It has done nothing to stop piracy. Neither did shutting down the original version of Napster. I personally think shutting down Napster made the problem worse. With Napster, the user downloaded one track at a time. Now with Bittorent and other P2P networks, you find complete albums offered or even the artist's entire discography as one file for easy download.



    But I still can't see what the fuss is about DRM. If you don't want it, don't buy from the iTunes Store or the Zune Marketplace or whatever. Go to the store and buy the CD and rip it to whatever you want. I could see the point if Apple hid the conditions attached to the files being purchased, but they don't. Likewise for its inability to not be played on other portable players beyond an iPod. It's sort of like someone complaining that the DVD they bought can't be played on their VCR or that a PS3 game won't play on the Nintendo Wii. You knew that when you bought it, so if you weren't okay with that in the first place you shouldn't have spent the money.
  • Reply 15 of 70
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post


    Open up the gates by giving labels the choice of DRM, and you also open up the gates to variable pricing, variable DRM restrictions, and all the other crap that the RIAA labels have been shoving down other channels.



    Not really. The DRM/no DRM choice is much, much, much, much, much easier to implement than variable pricing or DRM with variable rights. FairPlay DRM is added by the iTunes client after the song has been downloaded, not by the store.



    Apple provides the software to the music companies, who do the uploading to the store themselves. So, just add a tag option to that program: DRM "yes" "no". When the iTS sells a song to a client, it check the "DRM" tag and instructs the client accordingly whether to add DRM or not. These are devastatingly simple coding changes to make. Implementing a DRM system that has variable rights, or a pricing system with variable pricing, involves considerably more work.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by elroth View Post


    Why would anyone listen to Edgar Bronfman about selling music, while he's running Warners Music right into the ground? The only thing "completely without logic or merit" is the fact that Bronfman is still head of Warners.



    His comment irks me a great deal. To say that an argument is completely without logic or merit, but offer no explanation or reasoning as to why that it the case, is intellectually lazy and dishonest. It irks me even more that all proponents of DRM perpetually dodge the central point that DRM doesn't stop piracy.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post


    I don't quite agree to it, but the logic is that it is confusing if you have different rights for different songs that you buy from the store. How is a user supposed to know what files have what restrictions on them as they go through their library.



    It is consistent with the way Apple works...



    It wouldn't be confusing. Tracks listed on the iTS could have a big padlock icon next to the DRM protected tracks, and no padlock icon (or a padlock with a cross through it) next to DRM-free tracks. In terms of users browsing their own library, it would be no different from the current situation that tracks they have ripped themselves have no restrictions and iTS store tracks have restrictions: i.e. users are already familiar with browsing a library that has some restricted tracks and some not-restricted tracks.



    I hope that the only reason Apple don't sell "indie" label stuff DRM-free is that the contracts they have with the "big four" stipulate that Apple aren't allowed to do it.



    The more I think about it, the more I think Apple should just offer the ultimatum to the "big four": No DRM on your tracks, or none of your tracks at the iTS.
  • Reply 16 of 70
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iPeon View Post


    When you burn a Music CD in iTunes, it changes the format to AIFF That strips the Tags.



    That isn't accurate. AIFF is a "wrapper" file-format for containing PCM audio. AIFF, unlike WAV (which is also a PCM container file format) does support tags. A music CD is a "redbook" CD, which doesn't support tags. There is an extension to redbook - CD-text, which could be used to offer some kind of tag equivalent.
  • Reply 17 of 70
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    Not really. The DRM/no DRM choice is much, much, much, much, much easier to implement than variable pricing or DRM with variable rights. FairPlay DRM is added by the iTunes client after the song has been downloaded, not by the store.



    You missed my point. It's *not* a technical issue, that part *is* simple. It's a *contractual* issue. As I said, the one Really Big Club that Apple has with the RIAA labels is that they all get the same deal, period, end of story. The RIAA folks want variable pricing? "Sorry, everyone gets the same deal." The RIAA folks want different DRM limits on different songs? "Sorry, everyone gets the same deal." The indie folks want no-DRM downloads? "Sorry, everyone gets the same deal."



    The fact that the last point is one that we'd like to actually *see* happen is unfortunate, but so far the same-contract policy has kept the RIAA bastards at bay for the most part. What was once a mechanism for ensuring consumer rights is now standing in the way of those same rights, to a certain degree.



    Now, some have disagreed with this same-contract approach, but if you think about it, it's brilliant. For the labels to collectively bargain the same deal with variable pricing, with variable DRM, etc, they have to collude amongst themselves... which puts them in jeopardy of monopolistic practices accusations that might be prosecutable.



    That's the reason that DRM is levied evenly across the iTS, regardless of label: everyone gets the same deal, period. This is why Jobs is calling for the big four to agree to no-DRM. If he can get, say, 2 or even 3 of them to agree to it, then the remaining ones will have no choice, or lose one of their biggest online outlets, because again... everyone gets the same deal.
  • Reply 18 of 70
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post


    That's the reason that DRM is levied evenly across the iTS, regardless of label: everyone gets the same deal, period. This is why Jobs is calling for the big four to agree to no-DRM. If he can get, say, 2 or even 3 of them to agree to it, then the remaining ones will have no choice, or lose one of their biggest online outlets, because again... everyone gets the same deal.



    O.K., point taken. I think that Apple is in the position already where they can change that deal offered to everyone: instead of everyone gets DRM, everyone gets no DRM.



    If the big four say "no", they'll just have to sit and watch as everyone continues to buy iPods and indie tracks from iTS and piracy of "big four" tracks increases sharply. They'll soon change their mind about DRM.
  • Reply 19 of 70
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    O.K., point taken. I think that Apple is in the position already where they can change that deal offered to everyone: instead of everyone gets DRM, everyone gets no DRM.



    If the big four say "no", they'll just have to sit and watch as everyone continues to buy iPods and indie tracks from iTS and piracy of "big four" tracks increases sharply. They'll soon change their mind about DRM.



    I think they're getting closer, but they're not to that point yet. EMI is apparently experimenting with the idea of DRM-free online sales, so that's one that might be convinced. Basically, what *can't* happen is for iTS to lose 1/2 or 2/3 of its catalog at one shot - that would be deadly. But 1/6? 1/5? Yeah, it could survive that. Get 2 or 3 of the big labels to go along, hit that critical mass, then tell the other labels that it's no-DRM, or no-ITS, period. I think that's what Jobs is hoping for with this, convincing just a couple of the big labels to go along with it.
  • Reply 20 of 70
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member
    I don't know why the big labels don't at least try it out and see what happens.



    Myopic freaks.
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